Athletic Club’s hopes of competing for a top seven finish took a massive hit over the weekend when the Lions suffered a stoppage time equalizer against Celta Vigo. That result, coupled with others across Spain, now see Athletic needing to make up 10 points over the final eight games of the season. While a lot of fans are already looking ahead to the summer and next season, the players are refusing to give up. Kepa Arrizabalaga recently spoke to the media and made it clear that they will fight for the Athletic shield.
“The Celta game was a blow because we all saw three points. We deserved to win and needed the points to fight for seventh place, but we still have eight games left. We are professionals and that is what we are thinking about. There are enough matches left that we can’t think about anything else but fighting for European qualification. We will play for the shield and we want to win all of the remaining matches. Now we face Villarreal who are a great team and also fighting for Europe. They have a team that has been playing well for years. In the middle there is Trigueros, Rodri, Fornals, and Bacca and Castillejo attacking. They are a very complete team.”
When the season does finally come to an end all attention will turn to the World Cup in Russia. Kepa has been a regular face in Julen Lopetegui’s Spain squad and is pegged to be in the list to make the trip. However, the 23-year-old isn’t taking anything for granted. He says that he must continue to play his best if he wants to be able to participate in the World Cup this summer.
“Every player wants to play in the World Cup. For the last year I have had the confidence of the coach (Julen Lopetegui) and I know that I have to continue playing my best level and help Athletic in the remaining eight games. I am finding myself playing very well. The team needs the best level of every player. I hope that I can be on the final list to Russia and also help the National Team. That means I must play well now.”
With only eight games left this season Athletic do not have room for failure if they want to compete for European qualification. They will need to string together several wins to make up ground and the players are ready to fight to do just that. Their next game will take place on Monday when the Lions will travel to Estadio Cerámica to face off with Villarreal which will definitely be a difficult game. Kuko Ziganda will hopefully have most of his squad healthy and available so it will come down to putting the tactics together and playing a strong game away from home.